Just over two years ago, when Metro GM John B. Catoe took over, one of his first priorities was to clean the system up, and unfortunately for riders sick of broken down trains and delays, he meant it literally, not figuratively. This is from a Washington Business Journal article in March 2007, shortly after Mr. Catoe took over.
“He's also focused on creating a culture of cleanliness at Metro, and one of Catoe's first orders of business was making repairs to a railcar washing system. He wants cleaner trains, buses and stations; it's a trait he learned from his father, who drove a cab in D.C. for 35 years and kept a spotless vehicle. ‘That provides an image to your customers,’ says Catoe. ‘And from the standpoint of our employees, that's their office, so why not have a clean place to work? I've got a real pet peeve about dirty vehicles. It will not change in a week, but it will change."’
We’ll give him credit, Metro trains and stations are certainly clean, but Metro's image is far from good.
Over the past couple of months since we've been blogging about it, Metro has been plagued by derailments, broken down trains, allegations of fraud, drug/alcohol abuse by drivers and budget gaps. Mr. Catoe, who can't even get to his online chats on time has been at the helm of Metro for more than two years now, and as far as we can tell, things are only getting worse.
Adding to the irritation is the apparent denial among Metro officials that there's anything wrong. When asked about the recent spate of equipment derailments that caused major delays, a Metro spokesman said simply "This is highly unusual." This after four derailments in two days!
In response to reports of fraud and misspending, which could result in the loss of federal funding, Mr. Catoe said Metro is a "huge ship to flip over completely ... We're not perfect, but we're getting there."
He wants to flip the ship? Hmm. There's a better nautical analogy. Did he mean sink? That's where Metro seems headed, and Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay, a Metro board member, seems to agree.
"Contemplating giving more money to an agency that has flaws like this is a tough pill for a lot of my colleagues," McKay said, noting that the county is facing its own budget crisis. The reports demonstrate "that we haven't really sifted through a lot of years of corruption and lax oversight at Metro," he said. "It makes you wonder where the bottom is." Source: The Washington Post
With your own board saying things like this, where is the urgency to get it right or at least better? Where are the apologies? Where is the contrition? And most importantly, where is the improvement?
Do you think it's time for Mr. Catoe to step down and pass the torch to someone who goes beyond providing a clean façade to a fundamentally mismanaged and potentially rotten transit system? It might not solve all of Metro's problems, but it could be the first step in getting the real cleaning done.
Send an email to Lisa Farbstein, Metro's director of public relations, and let her know how you feel. You can also reach Metro's public affairs at 202-962-1051.